Riding a delightful wave of acidic vulgarity and an audience full of desperate wannabe filmmakers, American film director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) entertained a packed house at Roy Thompson Hall last Friday during a mammoth three and a half hour Q & A session.
The lifelong Degrassi High fan, in town to promote the new Ben Affleck vehicle Jersey Girl, was preceded on stage by two of the stars of the cult ’80s hit, Pat Mastroianni (Joey Jeremiah) and Stefan Brogden (Snake). “You know you’ve made it when Joey and Snake bring you out,” quipped Smith, “But where the fuck is Wheels?”
The crowd, clearly made up of voracious Smith fans, peppered the portly filmmaker about a number of his projects, including an upcoming adaptation of comic book hero The Green Hornet and a new addition to the Fletch movie series.
Among the nuggets revealed by Smith were the original casting choices for some of his films. According to him, the original cast suggested for Chasing Amy by the studio was not the eventual trio of Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee, but rather David Schwimmer of Friends, Drew Barrymore, and Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. Unable to settle on this, Smith took a budget cut, making the film for $250,000 instead of the original deal of $3 million.
The most poignant part of the evening came right at the start when Smith lamented on the drug addiction that gripped his best friend and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back co-star Jason Mewes. “It went from cute to the dude falling asleep while you were talking to him,” said Smith, noting that Mewes’ heroin addiction would cause him to nod off during the filming of Dogma with Chris Rock.
Smith also mused on the fate of his new film, Jersey Girl, which opens next week. The film has garnered a lot of negative press due to the match-up of Gigli guilty parties Affleck and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, who Smith is quick to point out is only in the first 12 minutes of the film. Despite the now-necessary p.r. campaign, Smith said he was glad to have J.Lo in the film, as Affleck didn’t really need to pretend to be in love with Lopez, because he already was at the time. “The less you need Affleck to act, the better,” joked Smith.
The pairing also kept Affleck on set, a task that wasn’t so easy when he was shooting Dogma at the same time Good Will Hunting was blowing up in the press. “This time all he wanted to do was go to work and fuck Lopez. And since Lopez was there…” Smith quipped.
Unfortunately, for every question about the ill-fated Clerks animated series or Smith’s low-key hostility towards fellow director Tim Burton (“He ruined Planet of the Apes!”), there was a slew of pathetic ass-kissing from struggling student filmmakers in the audience. In the strangest twist of events, a lanky young man drooled over Smith’s Chasing Amy, calling it everything short of a modern-day Citizen Kane, and then asking Smith if he would watch the movie he had just made. When Smith inquired about who the young man was, it turned out to be local director Sudz Sutherland, whose Love, Sex and Eating the Bones has already received a great deal of acclaim.
All in all, Smith provided a very entertaining evening for the crowd, tugging at their patriotic strings by proclaming, “I should be the American ambassador to Canada,” and, “I’d love to be P.M… I’d free Quebec!”